Unoriginal Ideas

I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but you’re probably not the first to think of that. Your idea is nothing special. But do not let that get you down. You still have a chance to set yourself apart from others through the execution of your idea. You still have a chance to approach the same problems and same needs in different ways. You still have a chance to communicate your idea better than the next guy and share it well with others. In an age “without original ideas,” you must move forward regardless. Do not preoccupy yourself with the dream. Execution is key. Get busy.
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How America Can Reclaim First Place

American FlagsCan you imagine traveling six days by horse in a blizzard to hang out with peers and talk politics? Can you imagine waking up to a trumpet, grabbing your gun and running outside to join other armed neighbors to defend your cul-de-sac? Can you imagine hiding in your basement with friends for fear of your life and plotting a bloody revolution? These activities were commonplace 250 years ago at the birth of our nation. Early Americans went to great lengths to come together, stand as one, and protect our freedoms. The value of togetherness networked local communities, rallied the majority against common enemies, and united the colonies.

Somewhere between the Cold War and postdevelopment, Americans lost site of that camaraderie. We lost site of togetherness. Back then, the freedom to assemble was a huge deal – so important that it topped the list of our constitutional amendments. Today, I see a lot of ambition and very little group collaboration. Few people stand collectively behind anything except brands and religion (and even those groups are fading).

We need to come together again. We need to debate again. We need to start a cultural revolution again. And like all great movements in history, the era of neo-togetherness starts small: spend more time with friends. Spend time discussing how you think the world should look. Spend time making suggestions and outlining solutions. And if you are brave enough, spend time tackling those solutions together.

Our great country evolved through community. Only a strong community can keep it alive.

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Big Idea, Huh?

We all have great ideas. Wonderful. Can you communicate them? Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Steven Spielberg tapped into this notion when he encouraged movie pitches to be 25 words or less. While Spielberg’s suggestion had a lot to do with the marketability of a film, the 25-word exercise forces you to boil your idea down to its core and communicate it. The exercise forces you to understand your idea more clearly.

Ideas do not need to be simple. In fact, they shouldn’t be. But they will get nowhere if they cannot be communicated simply enough to share with others.

Why I Journal And You Should Too

Journaling is not exclusive to gossipy, hormonal teenage girls.  Leonardo da Vinci journaled, why can’t you? By putting thoughts on paper, you see them differently – you develop pseudo third-person perspective to the inner-workings of your own mind. If you document life’s ideas, experiences and feelings to review later, you gain unparalleled insight into your own life. Journaling can be a qualitative method for tracking personal progress. With notes frozen in time, change is extremely easy to identify. A journal reminds you that you are always growing – and that you will continue to grow despite how stagnant life may feel now.

Journaling does not have to be complicated. I email myself often so that I can search it later. You should not waste time checking spelling or grammar (especially when you journal drunk, the entertainment can be priceless). Get out of your head, preserve this moment in time. You will thank yourself later.

The 90-Minute Rule

Coffee

90 minutes is the optimal duration for achieving certain types of immersion: social, narrative, health, entertainment, and more. Any shorter than 90 minutes, you cannot cover all the bases. Any longer, the brain may lose focus.

Generally, I set aside 90 minutes for coffee or meal get-togethers and tend to hit that mark without keeping track of time. All of the bases have been covered and the situation has turned cognitively stale. 

While being a conceptual and social theory, the 90-minute rule may be naturally linked to the circadian rhythm of our bodies (a sleep cycle lasts roughly 90 minutes, for example).

I have found the following to be most effective when conformed to a 90-minute window of time:

  • Revisiting with an old friend
  • Business meetings
  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Feature films
  • Home dining experiences
  • Concerts
  • Board games

With enough arcs and nuances to an activity, the 90-minute rule can be broken and expanded to achieve longer sustained immersion. Hikes, conventions, recreational sports, and several forms of entertainment can all present enough twists and turns to keep you invested longer than 90 minutes. The average duration of my ten favorite films, for example, is 131 minutes. Rich and fulfilling content or activities can transcend time (and your day calendar).

Can you think of any other activities that fit a 90-minute profile?

Ideation 101: How to Engineer an Idea

I’m not a creative guy. Many are far more expressive, imaginative and original. To those people, ideas come naturally – they just appear out of thin air. Not for me. And not for most. But don’t worry, there’s hope!

My best subject in school was Math. I see the world in variables and treat every problem as an algebra equation. 2x = 4, so x=2, correct? Find the common denominator and you discover the path to your solution. Putting two and two together. Straightforward.

So it is with the birth of new ideas. Bring two concepts together, find the common denominator between them, and discover inspiration for your new idea. Birthing an idea is a lot like birthing a child – it takes (at least) two parents to tango. The gene pool of one merges with the gene pool of the other and a derivative, yet completely unique person is born. Two merged cells evolve into a very complex organism. Two merged concepts can evolve into a very complex idea.

Try this exercise:

Step 1.  Pick your least favorite subject in grade school.

Step 2.  Pick a hobby you enjoy.

Step 3.  Put them together. Be inspired.

I did not enjoy history and enjoy dining out. Together: history dining? Now that’s a fun idea – a timepiece dining experience? Your server as your historical tour guide? A several course meal tracking the evolution of a dish through time? I could go on!

The trick is not finding root inspiration – we all have interests and disinterests, the world around us. The trick is accepting two different ideas can relate to each other – and identifying how they relate. The more dissimilar and specific the parent ideas are, the more difficult the connection becomes – and the more unique the new idea can be! Stick with it, keep analyzing. You will strike gold. With enough practice, the association between two random ideas becomes virtually automatic.  

The practical application of your newborn idea is the hard part. Ideation 201 anybody?